March 8, 2013

International Women's Day is a cause, not a celebration


One of my favorite quotes comes from Oprah Winfrey: “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is to celebrate.” I had to reflect on this quote today as I considered what I wanted to say to recognize the 102nd anniversary of International Women’s Day.

For our emotional well-being, I believe that we must celebrate positive actions and recognize the good in ourselves and surroundings. However, I’m not so certain that we should celebrate women during International Women’s Day. Isn’t the purpose of the event to bring awareness to inequality, oppression, and even abuse of women in the workplace, and other settings, by cultures around the world? We cannot celebrate such actions and therefore, the thought of celebrating International Women’s Day does not set well with me.

We can, however, bring attention to strong women who have lifted themselves up and inspired others to do the same. Today, CNN published a slideshow of inspirational quotes from women. It’s a good selection, and I chose Nora Ephron’s quote, “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim” as my favorite.

I believe this quote subtly identifies a problem. Women do not always realize they are victims. Some women might think that earning 77% of a man’s salary is acceptable because they have made trade-offs in their lives such as marriage or family that keeps them from being equal. Some cultures make women victims by denying them education. It’s not easy to recognize you are victimized when such behavior is all that you know.  Some women, recognizing that they have been victimized by inequality become victims of violence as they request or stand up for their needs. And sadly, in some cultures, women are abused simply to keep them down.

So while I don’t think these are things to celebrate, they are things to bring to light. International Women’s Day provides a forum for awareness of the struggles that women face on a daily basis. To those who are reading, I encourage you; let’s keep the solemnity of the day in mind.

Women are remarkable and we should celebrate their accomplishments daily, but at least one day a year, we should unite to say not all things are equal and draw attention to actionable plans that will change the status quo.  
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